THE BLOG

The Great Wake-Up Program: Is There A Gentler Way To Wake Up?

08/01/2011 02:02 pm ET | Updated Oct 01, 2011

I used to cringe upon hearing the words. Nap time. Of course, that was when I was four and thought the rest of the world was off doing fun, important things when I was asleep. Naps used to be mandatory when I was young -- preschools even have an hour devoted to nap time. What I would give for that opportunity now.

It's interesting how our sleep patterns change as we get older. As babies, we sleep all day and all night. As children, we require naps to make it through the day. Once we hit our teen years, we can function on less sleep (either that, or we convince ourselves that staying up chatting on the phone is actually way more important than sleep ... ).

I remember the first time I slept late as a teenager. It was a monumental day, signifying more than just teenage rebellion. It meant I had real-life responsibilities, -- chores, work, school -- and that tired me out.

Though I did pride myself on sleeping until 2:00 p.m. on weekends if left undisturbed, I was never really a big napper. Hour-long snoozes left me feeling groggy and disoriented instead of refreshed and alert, but I had (and still have) trouble taking 20-30 minute power naps. To this day, I'm not able to fall asleep fast enough for a power nap to be beneficial -- I usually count down how few minutes I have left of my allotted "nap time." By the time I actually fall asleep, it's time to get up again.

As a college freshman, I was forced into taking 8:00 a.m. classes on Friday mornings, nearly a half an hour away. After the trek back to my dorm room, I would lay down for an afternoon nap session. Except these "naps" turned into sleeping half the day away, sometimes coming close to four-hour snooze fests.

As I furthered my education and entered senior year, my schedule allowed me to go to bed late and wake up late. As a Journalism major, I was familiar with writing papers into the wee morning hours and making up for lost sleep during the afternoon hours.

Once I entered the working world, I joined the ranks of millions of 9-5ers, which eliminated the possibility of being a night owl and napping altogether. This new lifestyle further verified that I am not a morning person -- though I could have told you that years ago.

At the time, my work schedule, paired with commuting, called for a strict sleep regime. However, waking up in the morning was, and always will be, rough. It doesn't matter the time my alarm goes off -- it might as well be 4:00 a.m. -- waking up to the sound of an alarm clock at any hour really puts a damper on the rest of my day and leaves me feeling sleep-deprived.

Which leads me to this experiment. When LARK announced their 5-week test with AOL employees, I couldn't sign up fast enough. The "un-alarm" clock promises a more natural wake-up and a better quality of sleep. The alarm, which is worn on your wrist like a watch, vibrates to nudge you awake instead of blaring into your ear like a normal alarm clock.

One of the sleep experts we spoke with told us alarm clocks startle us out of a deep sleep and send a surge of adrenaline through our bodies. This makes complete sense -- when my alarm rings at 7:00 a.m., I basically jump out of my skin, realize what happened, and then feel extremely tired again. Mind you, this is all before I have both feet on the floor.

I've only been using the Lark system for a few nights now, but I have come to a couple definite conclusions.

One: I thought I slept more than I actually do. The Lark system analyzes how much sleep a person actually gets each night, in addition to telling them how many times they wake up during the night, how long it took to fall asleep and a quality of sleep rating from one to ten. Before physically seeing the total number of hours and minutes I sleep each night (around six hours and 45 minutes), I was under the impression I was getting much more shut-eye (I thought I got around seven and a half. To me, those 45 extra minutes are gold!). Two: As I get older, I am learning how much sleep my body needs to function. I'm also really trying to put myself on a better sleep schedule for optimal functioning throughout the day.

The Lark system is definitely a step in the right direction. I'm hoping I can train my body to sleep better and for enough time. I know it'll take a while, but I would like to be a little more of a "morning" person.